How to choose the right cartridge
Confused by all the terminology and hype which surrounds cartridges? There’s no need to be. The best way is to keep it simple, says Alastair Phillips.
and is therefore unlikely to present any issues when using standard cartridges. However, if you are thinking of using heavy/magnum loads or steel shot it is vital to check your shotgun is suitable for these. If in any doubt, consult the manufacturer or a gunsmith.
changing through the season
Over the last few decades there have been major advances in cartridge technology, in terms of the reliability and performance of primers and powders, the hardness and uniformity of shot, the physical consistency and performance of traditional paper and plastic cartridge cases, and the reliability and uniformity of fibre or plastic wads.
The weight of shot in the cartridge, the shot load, is expressed in grams, in the case of a 12 bore, for example, the most common loads being 28g, 30g, 32g or 36g. The reason for using heavier shot loads is to maintain pattern density as the distance to the target increases, providing enough strikes to ensure a clean kill. The reason for using larger shot is to maintain its kinetic energy which results in more dependable kills and minimises the number of winged birds.
From early October I use 30g No.6 shot loads which generate a denser pattern and are more effective on stronger, heavily-feathered birds that have more muscle and fly higher. Then from mid-november I favour 32g of No.6 shot, again because birds are stronger and more elevated. Later in the season some favour No. 5 shot
“There is no point in using a cartridge which kicks like a mule.”